Rick Icaza, Southern California grocery union chief, dies at 89


Longtime Southern California labor chief Ricardo “Rick” Icaza, who gained a status as a tricky negotiator throughout the grocery union’s periodic showdowns with the area’s grocery store chains, has died. He was 89.

Icaza was a member of United Meals and Business Staff Native 770 for 64 years, becoming a member of when he was bagging groceries at Ralphs as he attended highschool, then studied enterprise at UCLA. He climbed his method to the highest of the union, working properly previous the same old retirement age on behalf of union members in one of many nation’s best and evolving grocery markets.

“His imaginative and prescient as a pacesetter helped put our Union on the forefront of the Labor motion in California and past,” the union wrote on social media. “He mentored and developed the good management we’re lucky to have at present, and emphasised the significance of organizing new Union members and creating sturdy member leaders.”

Born in Los Angeles throughout the Nice Melancholy to Mexican immigrants, Icaza was the son of a journalist and a garment district employee, who had emigrated from Mexico within the Twenties. After graduating from UCLA with a bachelor’s diploma in enterprise in 1956, Icaza joined UFCW Native 770 as a researcher and later spent 36 years as president.

The perfect identified episode in Icaza’s profession was the 2003-04 California grocery employees’ strike, which lasted from October 2003 via February 2004, making it the longest grocery store strike in UFCW historical past.

The grocery giants appeared towards employee concessions to remain aggressive as Walmart started transferring aggressively into California. The exhausting line caught union leaders off guard and contract negotiations, overseen by a federal mediator, stalled.

In October 2003, UFCW employees walked off the job on the Vons and Pavilions chains in Southern and Central California. Then Ralphs and Albertsons chains locked out their union employees in solidarity.

Greater than 850 shops and 70,000 unionized grocery retailer employees had been coated by the expired contracts, and 59,000 had been on strike or locked out. Staff picketed in entrance of markets and urged consumers to take their enterprise to chains that weren’t on strike, equivalent to Costco and Dealer Joe’s, in addition to small and ethnic markets. The grocery chains shortened their hours and instructed Wall Road they had been shedding enterprise, ultimately totaling greater than $1.5 billion in misplaced gross sales.

Icaza was main UFCW Native 770 negotiations alongside representatives of six different locals, seeking to protect a number of the dwindling middle-class jobs in Southern California.

“There was a concern that the grocery chains had been going to take a tough line on the subsequent contract,” mentioned Nelson Lichtenstein, a analysis professor and director of the Heart for the Research of Work, Labor and Democracy at UC Santa Barbara.

Because the strike and lockout dragged on for 4½ months, some employees started to grouse in regards to the union leaders’ technique and Icaza’s wage ($273,404 in 2002), which resembled that of a company boss. (The union on the time pointed to the $1.26 million in wage and bonus earned in 2002 by Steven A. Burd, chairman of Safeway Inc., mum or dad of Vons and Pavilions.)

Because the strike stretched into its fourth month, Icaza, who was 70 then, instructed The Occasions: “I do know my members are struggling…. It’s essentially the most tragic factor that I’ve ever skilled. There are nights once I don’t fall asleep.”

“I simply don’t need to have that legacy of being the one which destroyed the very factor it’s taken us 60 years to realize,” he mentioned.

The strike and lockout ended with a contract that created a controversial two-tiered labor system with much less beneficiant wages and advantages for brand new employees. It was broadly seen as a win for the grocery store giants, which bolstered each other throughout the labor motion by sharing income, an association later struck down in court docket as a violation of antitrust regulation.

In 2006, Ralphs agreed to pay $70 million in fines and restitution, most going to employees, for illegally rehiring locked-out union members utilizing pretend names and Social Safety numbers within the strike.

It was Icaza who pushed for greater than the $40 million that Ralphs initially proposed, mentioned Kathy Finn, a former director of bargaining and present president of UFCW Native 770.

“It was an enormous danger,” Finn mentioned. “I used to be getting a variety of calls from individuals like, ‘Are you able to persuade him?’ He’s bought to compromise as a result of everybody else desires to take the 40. And he mentioned, No. After which we ended up getting the $70 million.”

In subsequent contract negotiations, the decrease wage tier was eradicated and advantages had been improved.

Icaza strove for inclusion each throughout the union and in conversations along with his household. His daughter Desiree Kellogg, who now serves as a deputy legal professional common with the California legal professional common’s workplace, credit her father as a direct affect for her present work.

“What I actually recall about my father is that he actually valued training achievement, not success, and needed to search out one of the best in individuals. And actually tried to nurture their expertise,” mentioned Kellogg, who was one in all a handful of feminine graduates from Stanford Regulation Faculty in 1986.

Finn credit the late president for elevating gender fairness within the union.

“At a time when individuals weren’t placing ladies in management positions, he put many ladies in positions of director and different management roles at Native 770,” Finn mentioned. She additionally recalled Icaza sending out memos throughout the union to help LGBTQ+ employees members.

“He didn’t look down at individuals. He was a really humble man. He simply had a spotlight and the union was his life. That was his life, his household,” daughter Michelle Icaza mentioned. From marching alongside farmworkers with Cesar Chavez within the Eighties to overseeing the mixing of the hashish business into the union within the 2010s, the union credit Icaza with overseeing many years of change inside labor in California.

Icaza additionally served as president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, a trustee of the California State College system and a vp of the Labor Council for Latin American Development. An actual property investor, he grew wealthy shopping for and promoting residential and industrial properties.

Icaza was a romantic. In line with his daughters, he wrote love letters to his future spouse, Adele Salido, who had been hospitalized with tuberculosis in 1958. The 2 married in June 1960.

A global traveler and avid weekend seashore volleyball participant, he was additionally identified for his fashionable bow ties and classic watch assortment. Concerned within the Democratic Social gathering, Icaza incessantly spoke out about points associated to immigration and Latino voting energy. He took his daughters and grandchildren to the inauguration of President Obama.

Working for the union late into life, Icaza was identified in 2017 with Parkinson’s illness. He retired later that 12 months. Icaza died July 3.

Icaza is survived by his spouse, Carmen Adela Icaza; three daughters, Desiree Kellogg, Michelle Icaza and Denise Icaza; and 4 grandchildren.


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